Google DeepMind CEO among high-profile backers of UK chip company Graphcore

British chipmaker Graphcore has raised more than £23 million as it bids to develop its first artificial intelligence-focused chips. Total investment in the company now stands at around £48 million, with one or two high-profile backers splashing the cash on the West Country firm. Among those willing to put up their cash are Google Deepmind’s CEO Demis Hassabis, Uber chief scientist Zoubin Ghahramani, who is also a professor at the University of Cambridge, and the cofounders of Elon Musk’s AI research firm, OpenAI. The company was also backed by corporates like Samsung, Dell, and Bosch in a series A funding round last year.

Graphcore CEO Nigel Toon said it was invaluable to have the support of such great innovators. "Having them on boards and supporting us is a very strong validation," said Toon. "They have that insight into not only what is happening in machine learning today, but they’re the innovators on what is going to come next. It gives us the insight into where the technology is going and how our IPU technology can help."

Graphcore claims that its chips will allow researchers to develop new forms of AI quicker and more efficiently, than on GPUs or CPUs, which are largely used today. The money will be used to scale up its team from 60 people to 120 people by the end of next year.

"Building systems capable of general artificial intelligence means developing algorithms that can learn from raw data and generalise this learning across a wide range of tasks," said Hassabis. "This requires a lot of processing power, and the innovative architecture underpinning Graphcore’s processors holds a huge amount of promise."

Equally excited about the prospect of Graphcore’s IPUs, Greg Brockman, cofounder and CTO of Open AI, said: "Training machine intelligence models in minutes rather than days or weeks will profoundly transform how developers work, how they experiment and the results they will see. Being able to experiment across a much broader front, at a much faster pace will create new breakthroughs and will allow us to combine many machine intelligence techniques to jumpstart progress."

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